Category Archives: On being a single parent

On being a single parent

What the Heart Needs

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It’s the middle of February and Valentine’s Day is upon us, so you can probably guess what this post is about. Yes, Love.  But before you roll your eyes, or run away screaming, just bear with me for a bit.  I guarantee I’m not going where you think I am with that.

I’m not gonna lie, the first 6 weeks of 2016 have been tough. I didn’t even blend a family and I can tell you that this blended family thing is haaaaard.  Going through a divorce, hard.  Learning to be a single parent, hard.  Helping my kids (and myself) through the transition of their dad getting remarried, I had no idea.

I’ve been saying it all along, my head knows that nothing, absolutely NO-THING, can replace me as my kiddos’ mom. My head has had that thought on repeat for the past couple of months.  I just wish my heart would catch up to the idea.  Every other Thursday when my babies leave for the weekend with their dad, my heart breaks a little, knowing that they are not only spending that time with their dad, but also growing a relationship with another mother figure.

Don’t get me wrong, I WANT them to have a relationship with their step-mom. And I want them to be close with her.  But I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt somewhat.

So, as we’ve been riding the rollercoaster of learning how to do this, I’ve tried to remind myself to find what my heart needs.

A couple weeks ago, knowing that I needed a break from the familiar everyday reminders of what life is now, Brian and I loaded up the car for a weekend in the woods. We drove to Table Rock Lake and spent a blissful weekend, with shockingly high temps for January, hiking, watching the sunset, playing pool and ping-pong (I went down gloriously at both) and sitting by the fireplace drinking wine.  It was perfect.  It was exactly what my heart, and my head, needed.

While it would be really nice to just jump in the car and drive to a cabin in the woods whenever I felt the anxiety or the sadness or the frustration start to overwhelm me, that’s just not realistic. Fortunately, I do have an old friend, that never lets me down when I need a break from reality.  His name is running.  He will go the distance with me, or if I don’t have time for a long visit, short and sweet works for him too.  The other day, we got another brief break from the cold of January, and while I only had time for 3 short miles, running came through.  It was one of those perfect experiences where my feet felt light, my lungs felt full and my heart felt happy.

So, back to the whole Valentine’s Day thing. February 14, to a lot of people, is really just another day.  A Hallmark Holiday. I totally get that.  But for me, it’s undeniably special.  This Sunday, while couples all over the world are exchanging flowers and chocolates (Yes, I have something for my sweetie, too) I will actually be celebrating the 13th anniversary of the day I became a mom.

I say all the time that God knew exactly what he was doing when He gave me Ally first. I also say that if Silas had been first, he would probably be an only child, but that’s beside the point.

Ally becomes a teenager on Sunday. My baby girl, who was the best Valentine ever, is about to turn 13.  With this milestone, it’s hard not to be even more reflective that usual.  13 is a big deal.

But here’s the hard part. This Sunday, Ally will wake up at my house and we’ll have cake for breakfast cause that’s how we roll.  And then she will go back to her dad’s and spend the rest of the day there, because that’s how the custody schedule works.

Fortunately, I get tomorrow with her, so we’ll get pedicures and drink Starbucks and I will probably even take her shopping (her choice, not mine). I’ve wrapped her presents and I’m working on her requested One Direction birthday cake.  I’m open to ideas on that one.  Anyone?

But then she will go and spend the rest of the weekend with her other family, the one I’m not a part of. I will be ok.  This is something that it took me a while to get used to, because anyone who knows me at all, knows that I LOVE Birthdays.  Seriously, I love them.  I make a huge deal out of them.  My mom always does the same, so I come by it honestly.  But I will be ok.  Because I know what my heart needs.  My heart just needs to be reminded that I am her mom and I always will be.

There’s a quote by Elizabeth Stone that goes, “Making a decision to have a child—it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

My heart turns 13 on Sunday, and even though she won’t be with me all day, she will be well loved, by many. I can’t help but think about the song I used to sing to her as a baby.  I would sit and hold her and sing to her.  I would keep singing long after her eyes would close and she would drift off to sleep.

The song begins, “You’re a little piece of heaven, You’re a golden ray of light, And I wish I could protect you from the worries of this life…”

Since I can’t sing you the whole song, you can check it out here.

She’s still my little piece of heaven, and now she is a BOLD golden ray of light that shines brighter all the time. No matter how old she gets, I will always want to protect her.  As she crosses the threshold of 13, I know that so many heartbreaks are right around the corner for her, but she is strong and I will walk with her through anything.  I could not be more proud of the person she is and who she is becoming.  She is so beautiful, inside and out.  She is smart, and determined, and loving, and thoughtful and she is not afraid to stand up for herself.

I know my heart will be ok, because even when it wonders off, it always comes back. And I know who is holding my heart in His hands.  Because He knows what my heart needs even before I do.

There are seasons in life that are hard, it’s just that simple. But even during those times, the heart will find what it needs if you let it.  It’s in the moments when the sun is shining, or when the wind is at your back, when your feet feel light and your heart is happy.  Eventually it will be 13 years later and you’ll look back to realize you don’t even remember the pain, all you can see is the beauty that came from it.  And all that remains is love.

Happy 13th Birthday, Little Al.

Happy 13th Birthday, beautiful girl.

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Learning to Navigate the Weird

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Running in negative 14 degrees and watching your spit freeze in mid-air…weird, right? A few days later, running in shorts and short sleeves, in January, in Missouri…also weird.

The word ‘weird’ has been thrown around a lot at my house lately, and in my head.

During a conversation with Ally just after Christmas, it occurred to her that there were people living in her other house (her dad’s house) while she wasn’t there. “Weird.” She said.

After the first day of being back at school, “Hey Ethan, how was it having Miles (new step-brother) in your class?” “Weird” was his response.

Seeing my kids’ new step mom also in the drop off and/or pick up line each day…Weird. Even weirder…being out for a run on Thursday afternoon and knowing that she was picking them up instead of me.

It has occurred to me that we use the word weird, when we aren’t really sure what other word to use.

Yesterday Brian and I bundled up and went over to brave the cold at Castlewood to get our first look at the post-flood version of our favorite park. Driving in was certainly weird, as I kept telling him various places that I had seen pictures of that had been completely under water.  Even the spot we parked in had been submerged just a couple weeks ago.  There were still remnants of puddles in lower lying areas, but for the most part, the ground was dry.  At first glance, things appeared normal, but that eventually changed as we went deeper into the woods.

We hiked up Lone Wolf Hill and walked along the bluffs. The height up there allows for a good overview, which also gave the appearance of things being mostly back to normal.  When we approached the stairs, I mentioned to B about a picture I had seen of the water being way up into the massive staircase.  Hard to believe, especially since the water has since receded into the confines of the river banks.  As we sat for a moment at the bottom of the stairs, watching a red-headed woodpecker just overhead, an older fellow came by and said, “A couple weeks ago, you would have been sitting under water right there.”  Weird.

As we went through the tunnel that goes under the train tracks and popped out on the other side by the trail that runs along the river, I started to get my first glimpses of the changes that had taken place. To the average person who had only been there once or twice, I’m sure those changes wouldn’t have been noticeable.  But to those of us who have made this park a second home, they are glaringly obvious.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but there was a time when I felt more comfortable being lost in the woods out there than I felt in my own house.  Weird.

“Woah” I said when I noticed how the massive erosion had washed the rocks from beside the train tracks down over a signpost, almost covering it. And again when I saw that part of the trail was now completely gone.  Vanished.  Weird.

We turned right to head out into the flats to see how far we could get before we might be forced to turn around due to mud, or possibly still flooding. The tiny, little, almost invisible stump that B tripped over about a year and half ago, injuring his rib, was still there.  However, if he were to fall the same way now, he would have ended up in the water.  The path had eroded and narrowed considerably.

B kept pulling sticks out of trees, sticks that had likely floated into the tree branches weeks before. We came across a pile of saw dust, evidence of someone with a chainsaw clearing the path of some of the bigger obstacles…entire trees that had floated down the river and been deposited in a new location.  As we got to the flats, we had to climb over a tree to continue.  Shortly after that we decided to turn around and go back along the river.  When we got back to the stairs we ran into my friend Lara, we talked briefly, but we started getting cold standing still, so we parted ways knowing that we would reconvene at the tri club party later.

As we continued along the river, familiar places looked totally different. From where I am sitting right now in my house, I can see a picture of my kiddos framed and hanging on the wall.  It was one of the first pictures I had taken to fill my new home.  It’s the 3 of them, smiling, sitting on a huge downed tree right by the path B and I were on.  That tree is now almost completely gone.  As I noticed how different the trail looked, I thought of that picture, and it made me kind of sad.

“This is so weird.” I kept saying, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this was even the same place.  “New territory to explore, new trails,” he said.  I smiled.  While that’s true, there are parts of Castlewood that are almost unrecognizable to me now because of the changes that have transpired.  There were parts that the old brush had been completely washed away, and parts that looked more like a tornado had gone through depositing so much debris up in the tree that it looked like a fort.

I’ve been struggling lately with the unfairness of the world. Having lost 2 friends to cancer, less than three weeks apart, who knew each other, I am having a hard time accepting that their children will have to grow up without their moms.  And when I think about how weird that my kids have another mother figure in their lives that isn’t me, what I am really thinking of is…it’s not fair.  Now, I don’t want to be someone who whines all the time about ‘It’s not fair’, but the reality is, it’s not.  I say to my kids all the time when they are unhappy about the fairness of some situation that parental line, “Sometimes life isn’t fair.”  No one ever promised us that it would be fair all the time, but sometimes what we mean when we say something is ‘weird’, what we really mean is…it’s not fair.  It’s not normal.  It’s different. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.  And honestly, when we realize that, it hurts.  It hurts a lot.

So, what do I do with that? How do I navigate the unfair?  Sometimes I grieve it, sometimes I call it weird and keep on moving, sometimes I have to look a little deeper to figure out what’s really changed.  And what do I do with the weird?  Well, I cry when I need to.  I hug B and my kids, sometimes more than they probably want to be hugged.  And I just keep doing the best I can with it, until the weird becomes the new normal.  And I remember that even though the trail is still in the same place, there was no way it was always going to look the same.  Some of the same little details are there, some of the big things are now missing.  There are some places where someone paved the way by clearing some of the larger obstacles and there are some places where the path has narrowed and made the trek significantly more challenging.  But I’ll climb over things, or swing from vines (yes, I actually did this yesterday.  B shook his head at me, but I laughed despite hurting myself) and I’ll do whatever I need to do to get back to where I need to be.

Fact: I am the old wife. There is another who has taken my place in that role.  Also fact:  I cannot ever be replaced in my more important roles.  There is some truth to the saying ‘Out with the old and in with the new’, but if you didn’t know what it looked like before, how would you even know it was new now?

Just like Castlewood, I have weathered the storm and I am not the same as I was before. But this won’t be the last storm, and I will be forced to change again.  The old plus the storms equal the new.  And just like B said, that gives us new territory to explore, and new territory equals new experiences. I am being refined in the fire, and being made new.

So now what? Is it weird that I find myself wanting to be friends with the new wife?  Maybe.  But wouldn’t it be even weirder if I didn’t want to forge a relationship with the other person who will be nurturing and helping to raise my children?  The other person who is listed as their emergency contact?  The other person who has the word mom in her title? I think so.  But maybe I’m just weird.

This is the photo of my kiddos from Castlewood on that tree.  The tree may be changed, but so are we.

This is the photo of my kiddos from Castlewood on that tree. The tree may be changed, but so are we.

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Welcome Back to the Unknown

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Ya know those moments in life where you’re just kinda cruising along and you start thinking to yourself, “Hey, I’m doing alright. I totally got this.”  And then there’s a shift in the wind and suddenly you’re like, “Oh, wait…Welcome to the unknown”   Or should I say, welcome back to the unknown?

I’ve been a single mom for a little over three years now. It’s been a bigger challenge than I ever could have imagined.  But I have my days where I’m like, “Oh yeah, I ‘ve got this down.  I’m totally kicking butt. No problem.”  Our weekly schedule is a little crazy, especially on Wednesdays when it looks like this: Out the door by 7:45am with lunches in hand and the crockpot set for dinner, drop the kids at school by 8, drive the hour in traffic to the Central West End and pray that I can find rock star street parking not more than a few blocks from the hospital, walk (or run) into Siteman for my externship hours, at the stroke of 4:00 bolt back to the car, the kids have been picked up by a friend and dropped at home for Ally to be in charge until I get there, drive the hour back to Wildwood, burst in the door (by 5pm if I’m lucky) hoping that homework is done and Silas is at least partially changed for soccer practice, change clothes, sign off on homework, shovel food down the kids throats, try to remember to eat something myself, leave again by 5:40 to get Silas to practice in the valley by 6 (tonight we snuck a quick stop in to their grandparents’ house to pick up some of Ally’s forgotten items), drive across the valley to drop Ally at the church for youth group, drive back over to the ballfields so I can get in a quick couple miles before practice ends at 7:15, drive home, put Silas in the shower, clean up the kitchen, finish the homework, go pick Ally up from youth group by 8:30 (I lucked out tonight and she got a ride home), get Silas into bed, get Ethan into bed, sink down into a chair somewhere and finally take a breath.

Wow. That’s a day.  But I’ve gotten somewhat accustomed to the craziness and doing it *mostly* on my own.  I’ve very thankful for my villiagers who help how they can.  But I’m used to being on a minute to minute schedule most days.  And, if I do say so myself, I’m doing alright.  Not perfect mind you, but alright.  I’m keeping the boat afloat.

So here we are going along, doing our thing, but yesterday Silas threw me for a little bit of a loop. After not seeing the kids all weekend, I arrived home to hugs and chaos.  After about a minute, Silas said, “Hey Mom!  Guess whaaaaat?” with the last part of the word going up a few notes in that sing-songy way that kids do when they want to spill the beans.

“What?”

“We have some news!”

My mind was spinning with, ‘Oh please let him say he lost another tooth, or they had pizza for lunch, or something…’ but I already knew what he was about to say.

“On Saturday…Dad engaged Katie!” He was beaming.  I was too, just because of how cute he was with his verbiage.

“Oh yeah? Your dad proposed to Katie? Are you excited?”

“Yes!”

I sat with that a minute. I wasn’t surprised in the least.  Even though they started dating around March of this year, I fully expected things would go quickly.  Call it gut instinct, women’s intuition, whatever.  I really was ok with it.  But I’m still processing the fact that my kids are about to have several members added to their family, people who I really don’t even know.  That’s kind of weird.  Kind of like that change in the wind I mentioned earlier.  Katie currently lives in Iowa with her 3 kids.  They will be married and moved in by Christmas.  Maybe instead of a light breeze, that’s more like a big gust.

Tonight after dropping Ally at youth group I drove back over to the Chesterfield Athletic complex where Silas was at practice. I had plans to get in a couple miles on the levee if I could scrounge up a headlamp in the car. I pulled the car into an empty space, pilfered through the running bag I keep in back, scored a headlamp with non-dead batteries and had all of 35 minutes until practice would end. It was still light enough when I started but the sun was already beneath the horizon, so I knew it was only a matter of time.  My first mile out, with the wind at my back, seemed easy and my feet cruised along the old familiar path.  At a mile and a half, I turned back to wind in my face and it got darker with each step.  I turned on the headlamp, which helped a little, but since I was also wearing a visor, some of the light was blocked.  Oh well, I would adjust.  I was dealing with the challenges, but I was still doing just fine.  My mind went back to a conversation with Ethan last night at bed time.

As I was tucking him in, he was telling me that Katie’s youngest would be in his class since they are less than a year apart in age.

I said, “You’re pretty excited, aren’t you?”

“Yes!” He responded. After a pause, he leaned over the top bunk to look at me, with a big smile and concerned eyes, he asked, “Are you, Mom?  Are you excited?”

“Am I…um, what? Excited?  Uh…”  I admit I wasn’t very graceful in the moment, I mean how in the world do you answer that?  But I recovered fairly quickly.  “Bud, if you are happy, then I am happy.  I’m glad you are excited.”

He smiled. I smiled.  Then I kissed him on the top of his head, as is our custom, and said “Good-night, bud, I love you.”

So, during my run tonight, I was thinking. Am I excited?  No, that’s not the word.  How do I feel? I’m not upset in any way.  It’s weird, for sure, to think about it.  And like I said, I’m still processing.  But I’m ok.  It creates a new dynamic, like wind or running in the dark, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.  It will take some getting used to, but we’ll adjust and in time it will just be what we’re all used to.

As Silas’ team came back into view, the lights of the field were much brighter than my headlamp. I could see them down on the field, running, playing, having fun.  And I thought, “I really do just want my kids to be happy and taken care of.   And if they have one more person (or several) in their lives to love them, then that just adds to their happiness.  As a single parent, all you can really hope for is that if your former spouse finds someone to share your children with, that this new person is good to your kids.  It’s the ultimate in letting go of control.  And it’s ok if I’m not always graceful when I feel like I’m running into the wind, in the dark.  I’ll adjust, and recover, and keep going.

As I neared the end of my run, I found myself praying…

God, help me with forgiveness. Help me continue to let go of what I thought my life should look like and help me to be gracious, always. God, Bless the union that is going to bring two families together and please protect my babies in that.  And God…bless the woman who is about to take on the new challenge of being a step-mother to my 3 amazing kiddos, carry her as she enters unfamiliar territory.  And guide her when she feels like she’s alone in the dark.  Show her grace and mercy and remind her that she isn’t alone.

As I prayed I noticed a lump forming in my throat. I know exactly what to pray for her, because it’s what I pray for me all the time.

It’s tough to run and cry at the same time, it really just makes you start to hyperventilate.

And God…please help me to remember to breathe.

 

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Lesson in a Lunchbox

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It’s Friday morning and I just got back from dropping the kids off at school. To say I’m glad this week is over would be a vast understatement. Aside from the fact that they started school on Monday and I wasn’t there to see it due to my school starting at the same time, we had a total of 7 sporting events in 5 days between baseball and soccer. And with summer giving one final push into the mid 90’s we were without AC. Again. This week wasn’t pretty. But we got through it.

Today at noon the kids are leaving school early when their dad picks them up to spend the holiday weekend at Lake of the Ozarks with his new girlfriend and her 3 kids. This morning, in their flurry to get ready for school and their excitement over the weekend, Silas and I had a hard time seeing eye to eye. On anything. Actually, it’s been like that for about the last 48 hours, just one thing after another. Nothing major, just lots of little nitpicky things. We had some pretty great moments over the summer, but the last few moments before school this morning were not our finest.

As parents, we all struggle with walking that fine line between being firm on things that we maybe don’t need to and giving in to our kids to the point that they walk all over us. I never do it perfect and this morning was a clear indicator of that.

Yesterday when we got home I asked Silas for his lunchbox so I could empty the remaining contents. He couldn’t find it, not in his backpack, not in the car. But he assured me he was absolutely positive he had not left it at school. So this morning as I walked into school with him to see if we could locate it, he was more than unhappy with me that he had to carry a brown bag. I’m not sure why that was my fault, but he seemed to think so. As sure as he was that his lunchbox was not at school, as we approached his classroom, sure enough, there it was hanging on his hook in the hallway.

He stormed into his classroom without even looking my way. I popped my head inside the door and said a quick introduction to his teacher who I hadn’t met yet. She mentioned how excited he has been all week about leaving at noon today, I quickly brushed past the fact that it was not with me.

I was halfway back to the car with lunchbox in hand when I paused. I really didn’t want to go back into the school, especially since I was wearing the same clothes I was wearing at drop off yesterday (it’s been a rough week, don’t judge me) when I had to go in to deal with Ally’s meds. But I stood there on the sidewalk knowing what I needed to do.

As a mom, there is nothing better than seeing the look of pure joy on one of my kid’s faces. I got to see that look several times over the last few weeks, like at one on one Cardinals games with each of my boys, our Fab 4 adventure day all around the city and my road trip with Ally to see her fave band, 1 Direction (who is apparently breaking up, so there is a lot of drama around here).

And there is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing them with a look of defeat or disappointment. One of those moments occurred a couple weeks ago at Ethan’s baseball game. He was up to bat and he got hit by a pitch for the first time in his career. It wasn’t hard, I knew he’d be ok. But I could tell that it shook him. He took his base. Lead offs are allowed now, so he was testing the water with that. After a couple pitches, the pitcher threw the ball to the first baseman and Ethan wasn’t at all close to getting back to the bag in time. He was clearly out.

I could see the look on his face. He was disappointed, embarrassed, frustrated. He felt let down, and worse he felt he had let his team down. That’s the worst feeling in the world, especially when you’re out on the middle of the field with everyone looking on. I watched carefully as Ethan came off the field and one of his coaches put his arm around Ethan to speak to him. He didn’t make him feel bad, just used it as a learning experience. With kids, or with anyone really, it’s all about what you say in those moments.

That got me thinking back to my own days on the softball field. Now, let me be very clear, I was not good. Ethan has talent for baseball, I did not. Sure I could throw and catch and shag a fly ball, but my batting average was .000. Seriously, my final varsity season I either had a pinch hitter, walked or struck out at every single at bat. I made contact for an occasional foul ball, but I had no hits. None. Somewhere I even have a certificate to prove it.  Despite all that, there is a right way and a wrong way for a coach to treat his players and my coach didn’t really know the difference. While I was at best mediocre, I still always put forth any effort I could muster. I’m all heart, I always have been. I distinctly remember a time my coach had promised me a place in the starting lineup, but as game time neared and he announced the positions, my name wasn’t mentioned. I found myself sitting on the bench again. I made it through the game and helped gather the gear at the end. And as I shuffled toward where my dad was waiting in the parking lot, I felt the tears welling up. It wasn’t long after I shut the van door that the tears flowed and I vented my frustration. It wasn’t about the fact that I didn’t get to play, it was that I had been promised an opportunity and then without explanation it was taken from me. I wasn’t treated right and that stuck with me. Obviously. It’s now 22 years later and I still remember it like yesterday.

My dad just listened and let me get it out. I don’t recall what he said to me that day, but I remember coming out of that experience knowing that he was still proud of me and my efforts. And I had the confidence to seek the explanation I desired.

I went to my coach the next practice and explained my disappointment. Rather than owning his mistake, he basically manipulated the situation and told me I got his words mixed up. I left feeling even worse, when really, all I was seeking was “You know what, you’re right, I should have handled it differently and I’m sorry.”

Coincidentally yesterday when I was going through a box of stuff and I came across a picture of my dad. There was a sticky note next to it with these words written in my handwriting: The one who attempts to be better than oneself is likely to have more success than one who attempts to be better than someone else. I have no idea who to give credit to for that quote, but it very easily could have been something my dad said to me in the van that day more than 2 decades ago.

Flash forward back to today. Me standing on the sidewalk holding a 2nd graders lunchbox. It took less than a fraction of a second to decide what to do. I couldn’t wait until Tuesday when I see Silas again to make things right. So I turned around, walked back into school and straight to his classroom. He looked up at me like why are you back in here? I walked to his desk, he stood, I knelt. I whispered in his ear, “I’m sorry we fought this morning. I didn’t want you to leave for the weekend with it this way. I love you.” He put his arms around me, and kissed me on the shoulder, then went back to his desk. I smiled and told him to have fun. And I went back out of the school to the parking lot, got in my car and drove away, crying of course.

Even in his absence, my dad continues to teach me things. All any of us really needs is validation and acknowledgement of our efforts. It’s ok if we don’t see eye to eye all the time, as long as we accept and love each other in the process of figuring it out. I don’t need to be right all the time and I don’t need to be better than anyone else, I just need to do right by my kids to the best of my abilities. And to try to be better than myself, better than who I was yesterday. And I guess if I keep doing that, then I’m doing alright.

With my little buddy at Ethan's baseball game on the first day of school

With my little buddy at Ethan’s baseball game on the first day of school

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The Truth about Mother’s Day

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I have a confession to make.  And it likely won’t be very popular.  But when have you ever known me to do something simply because it was popular?  Here it is.  You ready? The truth is…I’m not super fond of Mother’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom and I am glad to be able to honor her.  But as a mom, as a single mom, this weekend is really tough.  I’ve spent the better part of today either crying or fighting the tears that want to come, depending on the situation.  Crying at work isn’t typically the most acceptable way to greet customers, so I got by ok there.  It was actually a good distraction.  But it was difficult to hold back when I was at the grocery store and several people were buying flowers, and cards, and I was overhearing conversations of the planned menus that were being prepared tomorrow for all the moms.

I keep thinking back to a couple years ago, my first Mother’s Day after things were finalized.  I remember sitting in Ihop with the kids, cutting pancakes and mopping up spilled orange juice and tending to everyone’s needs, when suddenly I looked around me.  It was like slow motion that I noticed all the families.  My eyes went from one table to the next, to the next, scanning the faces of moms, and kids, and dads.  That was the day I realized Mother’s Day would never be the same for me.

Fortunately, I managed to get my work schedule switched around tomorrow, so I can spend the day playing with my babies.  Assuming the weather cooperates, we’re going to spend part of the day at Eckert’s Farm over in Illinois where they will have rides, inflatables, and all kinds of other activities for the kids.  But the other day when I called to make reservations for Mother’s Day brunch and as I spoke to the lady on the other end, she asked how many.

“Four,” I told her.

“Are there any children in your party?”

“Yes, 3.”

“But you said there are 4 total in the party, right?”

“Yes…”

I wanted to scream into the phone, “Yeah, that’s right!  I’m making my own reservation for my own brunch!  And I’ll be picking up the tab too!”  It wasn’t her fault that things turned out like this, but it was just one more reminder that my life didn’t go the way I planned.

The reality is I am a mom with great kids that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  The other part of my reality is…I do it alone.  Yes, I have a fantastic guy in my life who has come through for me big time on several occasions.  And yes, I have the most amazing friends ever who make sure I am never lonely.  And yes, my kids and my mom and the rest of my family love me to pieces and I’m so blessed to have them.  But none of them are responsible for taking on the role of the other parent in my household.  That is reserved for me alone.

Trust me, I’m not saying I regret my life choices.  And I’m not saying I want to be back where I was.  But I pulled out a picture earlier of Mother’s Day morning a few years ago.  My three babies sitting on the floor next to my bed, crowded around a tray full of pop tarts and soggy cereal and something in a plastic wrapper.  They had decorated big cards that read “I love you, Mommy!”  That picture was taken the last time I got to wake up on Mother’s Day to my babies’ smiling faces.  Tomorrow I will meet them at church and we will go off and spend a fun day together.

And while there is definitely something to be said for sleeping in, I would trade that a hundred times over for the snuggles in bed, and a tray of soggy cereal and cold pop tarts prepared for me.

I keep thinking about my friends that have lost their own moms, and my friends who have had several miscarriages or lost children, my friends who have been alienated from their children and friends that have struggled with infertility.

Mother’s Day is a beautiful sentiment to honor and celebrate the women who have brought us into the world and loved us unconditionally.  But it is also bittersweet for many.

The fact is we can’t have any way of knowing what the experience is of anyone we encounter tomorrow.  So the best we can do is to honor the moms of the world, wherever their babies are, on earth, in heaven, in their hearts.  And tomorrow if you look around and notice a mom without a partner, or someone with sadness in their eyes, give them an extra smile.  As a personal request from RRG, do what you can to pay it forward and spread a little extra sunshine.

So to all of the women in my life, whether you are a mom or not, I salute you and celebrate you tomorrow for the beautiful souls that you are and all that you bring to this world!

To all of the moms in my life, we have the toughest and most amazing job ever.  Thank you for helping me navigate this challenging, rewarding, heart-breaking, exasperating, wonderful path of motherhood.

To the ones who are grieving, if I could wrap you in a big Lindsey sized hug, I would do it!  I am sending love and prayers to so many of you.

To the three little people who made me a mom, I can’t imagine life without you.  You make me laugh, you make me cry, and sometimes you make me completely CRAZY.  But I love you all a super, super, super lot!  And I wouldn’t trade you for anything!

And finally to my own mom, there are no words to thank you for all that you have put up with from me, but my one hope is that I can be to my children even half of what you have been to me.  Love you, Ma.  Thank you for making tomorrow worth celebrating!  Happy Mother’s Day.

Mother's Day 2011

 

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What I Wish Everyone Knew About the “D” word

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I’ve seriously tried to write this post a handful of times over the past couple weeks.  Every time I start, I get stuck.  The words won’t come but the tears do, so I have to set it aside for a while.  Hopefully this will be the time that I will finally say what I need to so I can move on. And hopefully I can say it eloquently, so it doesn’t sound like I’m whining or judging.

My frustration is not for nothing.  The topic here is one that no one particularly likes to talk about.  It usually involves hushed tones, guilt, shame.  It’s taboo.  It feels like the unforgivable sin.  It’s the “d word”.

Here’s what I wish everyone knew about divorce.  Very simply, please stop referring to it as “the easy way out”.  Please.  I implore you.

I assure you there is absolutely nothing easy about divorce.  There is nothing easy about coming to the decision of ending your marriage.  There is nothing easy about going through with it.  There is nothing easy about spending thousands of dollars on someone to help you split your assets, and more importantly the time with your children.  There is nothing easy about coming home to an empty house when you used to be a full time family.  There is nothing easy about being both mother and father in a household.  There is nothing “easy” about any of it.  And until you’ve been through it, which I don’t wish on anyone, you really have no idea what this road of uncertainty looks like, or how to navigate it.

I’ve heard it said that the stress caused by divorce is equivalent to losing a loved one.  I think every situation is different, but I’ve lost enough people I love to know that major life changes are hard.  Death is a natural part of life and there is a grieving process involved.  Typically during that process, people reach out in love, offering to help relieve the pain, even if just for a little while.  Death is extremely painful to deal with, and there usually isn’t a choice involved.

I guess that with divorce, because there is a choice, at least usually by one of the parties involved, people don’t feel as much of a need to reach out in that same empathetic, caring way.  It’s viewed as, you’re choosing this, you’re…giving up.  You failed.

In a divorce, no one wins. If the marriage was the first or the fifth, if it lasted a year or a decade or more, if it produced children or not, if you filed or you were served, I can tell you that regardless of all of those things, it sucks.  It sucks for everyone involved.  I’ve only been through it once, but I know without a doubt that I don’t want to go through it again.  I don’t want my kids to have to go through it again.

I know that anyone who told me to “try harder” or “be loyal” probably wasn’t aware that I’d had those same conversations over and over with myself in my own head for years before I ever finally voiced the “d word” out loud as a possibility.  I mean, for crying out loud, I completed a 15 hour race.  I am not a quitter by any means.  I am someone who knows how to push through and persevere.  But sometimes, we have to look at the options and see that while we don’t particularly like either of the outcomes, we have to choose the one that makes the most sense for us.  By “us” I mean each of us, as individuals.

The more I tried to retreat to a place of safety to process what my needs were, the more I was bombarded with the pleas to stay.  Pleas that came from every direction.  Everyone wanted to be the one to fix it, to fix me. When what I really needed was space, quiet, and sometimes someone to just hold my hand and let me grieve that the life I had planned for myself had gone way off track.

But the pleas were so loud it was hard to hear the muffled sound of myself trying to find my own voice.  A voice that had been buried for so long that the only way to find it again was to go down a road that some people, not everyone, deem “the easy route”.  Somehow I found my voice and it said, “This.  This is what’s best for me.  Go this direction.”

We are human.  We are not perfect.  But we are also not meant to do life alone.  Last week in church, Pastor Greg went back to the familiar story in Genesis.  He talked about how God created Adam and it was not good for him to be alone.  So from Adam’s very own rib, He created Eve.  And He presented her to Adam as a gift.  God gave them the gift of each other.  And it is for that reason that a man should leave his father and mother to be one with his wife.  Our creator wants us to be united to another.

But what happens when that unity doesn’t last forever?  Well, then you run out into the rainy parking lot after the service is over to retrieve the kids’ backpacks so you can pass them off to the other parent who will have them for the next couple days.  And then you wonder, as you are standing there in the lobby of Kids Crossing holding all the gear, if it is as painfully obvious to everyone else that you are in the midst of “the swap”.

But what else really happens after the papers are signed?  You continue to do the best you can with the situation you’re in.  You keep seeking to find an identity that doesn’t include a marital status.  You go on about your life knowing that the daily struggles are many, which is true regardless of whether you are married or not.  Sure it would be easier if we could all claim a loving, caring, supportive spouse, but even of those marriages in existence that isn’t always the case.

I have so many friends that have come to me in the past few months with questions about where they want their marriage to go.  Somehow going through the “d word” has made me an expert on a topic that I never wanted to know about.  I wish some of these friends would stay together, I think others are better off apart, but I hope they all do due diligence to make sure they’ve done everything they can.  I know none of them just woke up one day and decided “That’s it.  Peace out.”  It takes time to get to the point of brokenness that results in the d word.  But the fact remains, I am not in any of their marriages, so I really don’t know what it looks like to the two of them.  I need to keep my own baggage in check and not drag it out into their story.

I’ve dealt with my baggage.  And I’m continuing to deal with it.  But the truth is, it’s still hard.  Even after almost 3 years, I still have daily challenges because of it.  Some are obvious, some less so.  And for a large portion of that time I’ve been in a relationship with a pretty fantastic fella.  I’d like to think I don’t project any of my junk onto him, but chances are, sometimes it gets in the way, whether I’m aware of it or not.

I think I’ve been pretty successful at the single mom thing.  I have a job.  I’ve kept a roof over our heads.  I get the kids to their activities on time (mostly).  I feed them (sometimes with fast food).  I’m proud of the people they are becoming.  I’m proud of the person I am becoming.

But I still get lonely.  I still miss my kids.  I still get sad when they go on vacations without me.  I still don’t like being the one to pay the bills each month and have to deal with the financial stuff.  I still wish I had a spouse I could pass some of the responsibility off to every once in a while, especially when something breaks.  I still sometimes think about being a traditional family unit, and I miss it.

I don’t regret the choice I made, but this certainly isn’t where I thought I would end up when my dad walked me down the aisle almost 15 years ago.  Every time we are presented with a choice, we are at a fork in the road, but the options are not labeled “hard” and “easy”.  Either direction we choose will present its own set of challenges.  And unless you’re on a specific path, you really have no idea what those challenges will be.  So, here I am, on this path, I’m sure its easier than some.  And I’m figuring it out as I go.  Just like everybody else.  Some days are smooth, some days aren’t. I’ll take the obstacles as they come.  And I’ll just keep going.

What’s the saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes? I guess if you want to come take a spin in my shoes to see how easy it is, you’re more than welcome to.  I mean, I work at a running store.  I do have a few extra pairs.

 

*One additional note, tomorrow would be my parents 43rd wedding anniversary.  I know that in the almost 30 years that they had together, they had their share of challenges.  But I am thankful for their example of what a healthy marriage looks like.  I don’t know if I will ever have a marriage like theirs, but I know that if I do, it will transcend time and space and even death.  Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your example of love.

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Welcome 2015!

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Well, here we are a week into 2015 and what do you have to show for it?

Me? Not much. But I did bake some muffins and pick up a new charger for my phone.

After Ironman Arizona in November, I allowed myself to go into full on recovery mode.  I set training aside, ate anything I wanted and slept more than I thought was humanly possible.  I enjoyed the holidays to the fullest and made it very clear that I wasn’t even going to think about forcing myself to work out until the new year.

Well, the new year showed up, but my motivation didn’t.  Granted the temps have been dropping this week, today as I drove the kids to school the car registered a whopping 8 degrees.  Factor in the wind chill, and you can rest assured I stayed inside today.  I did manage to get over to the gym for a spell, so at least there’s that.

At any rate, I think it’s safe to say that while I am allowing recovery mode to linger, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the physical health aspect of life worked out.  In the past I have always required something to train for in order to give me a “plan” for motivation.  But as I sat back and thought of everything I have put my body through in the past 6 years, it became clear that I am in the midst of a much needed break.  Since Silas was about a year old (He’s 7 now), I have run 9 marathons, a 50k, a 30k, Pere Marquette x2, and countless half marathons, 10 miles, 10ks and 5ks.  Oh, and 20+ miles during 3 different overnight relays longer than 200 miles.  I have also taken up cycling and learned how to swim.  I did my very first Olympic distance triathlon only 2 and a half years ago, followed by a couple half Iron distance and most recently 140.6.

No freaking wonder my body is begging for a break!

So, this year, 2015, I have vowed to settle down and do what I love, because I love it.  Recently when people ask me what’s next, I have enjoyed being able to answer, “Nothing. I have nothing on the agenda.  I just run when I want to.”  I have no plans to sign up for any major races this year.  I’m allowing the bank account to recover along with my body.  I know that when the right opportunity presents itself I will think, “That sounds fun.  I would like to do that with my friends.”  And then I will sign up for it.  Chances are it won’t be long until that happens.  But until the time comes, I’ll be enjoying a Favre style “retirement”.

I’ve never really been one for resolutions.  I’ve always been the type who thinks if you don’t like something about yourself or your life, change it.  Even if it’s just a random Tuesday in August.  Why wait?  We all lose sight sometimes.  We all get off track.  So it’s important to get back on the horse when we can.  But this year is a little different.  This year, I turn 40.  (Gasp!)  This is cause for a little more reflection, or perhaps introspection, than most years.

So, while on my infrequent trips to the gym this week, where I’ve had to share the equipment with not only the regulars, but also the “resolutioners”, I’ve been contemplating how easy it is to fall into the rut of New Year’s goals = fitness goals.  But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.  Especially when you’ve completed an Ironman and you’re not really even sure where you want to go from there.

So what do I want to come from my 40th year on this planet?  Well, I want to focus on ALL aspects of my health, not just physical. So, I’ve started things like reading through the Bible in a year and I’m looking up new recipes that I want to try (my hope is one new meal a week, but don’t hold me to that).  Drink more water, eat more greens, blah, blah, blah. And don’t we all have that continually growing list of projects we want to tackle that have no real deadline so we keep pushing them off?  I work much better with deadlines, but I’m hoping to attack one of those projects each month. (I think cleaning out the garage is going to wait until the temperature is above zero)  I also really want to find a charity to volunteer for, or a group traveling to another country to do a mission…something.  But I want to be very thoughtful about this process.

Anyway, what it really all comes back to is that I want to be the best me I can be, so that I am living that example for my kids.

If there is anything that I am sure my kids have learned from me, it’s that they know how to dream big.  Set big goals and go after them.  Hard work and determination will go a long way.  And nothing is impossible.

I also know that they have learned to have big hearts, full of generosity.  They are kind and they help people when they can.  They are very quick with hugs.  I see that reflection of myself in them, and it makes me happy.

Because of me, my children are learning to be good communicators and how to express their emotions in a healthy way.  This hasn’t always been the case, but I have learned and I am teaching them.  They see me cry on a regular basis.  Sometimes out of joy, sometimes pain, but they know this is healthy and acceptable.  They also know I love to laugh!

But there are always things we can improve upon, and I am no exception.  Where there are strengths, there are also weaknesses.  So as we dive into 2015, I plan to exercise the muscles that have fallen somewhat dormant in the monotony of daily routine.

I want to teach my kids to dance upon that fine line between being responsible and being a martyr.

I want to teach them how to balance between doing something well, to the best of one’s ability, without the unrealistic expectation of perfection 100% of the time.

I want to teach them to stretch their brains, as well as their bodies.

I want to teach them to seek the good in each day, especially the tough ones.

Here are a few of the things we are implementing at my house…

Yesterday we started “3 tasks a day”.  Having daily or weekly chores is difficult in a single parent household.  Sometimes they are only with me a couple days during a week, so what if I let the dishes pile up?  That doesn’t work.  And since my kids were young when we split households, I have tended to carry on as the martyr who does everything for everyone.  Let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier to just get it done yourself than to enforce follow through given the attention span of a 7 year old boy.  Oy!  But with “3 tasks a day”, I can come up 3 different chores that need to be done around the house (like gathering up the garbage, vacuuming, wiping down the bathroom or the kitchen, dusting a room, what have you) and delegate those chores.  Each of those things should only take each kid not more than 5 minutes or so.  Those 5-15 minute tasks add up for one person but 5 minutes X 3 kids = less stress for me!  Each day we rotate who picks first to keep it “fair”.  They are so excited about this concept that this morning on the way to school they were asking what the 3 tasks would be today.  Holy smokes!  Who knew this would be such a hit?!

The part that will be hard for me in this is relaxing my standard.  A 7 year old sweeping the floor or a 9 year’s version of ‘’clean” may not be perfect, but at least it’s done.  Sometimes “good enough” is just that.  Especially when that allows us more quality time together in the long run.  There are some things that require a higher standard.  Cleaning is not one of them.

Another thing I am going to be more accountable on is everyone reads for 15 minutes a day.  I love to read, but sometimes this is gets lost in the shuffle.  We watch TV or we rush around to activities.  If I make a point to model this, then I’m not asking my kids to do something I wouldn’t do myself.  And the boys in particular could use the practice.

Finally, thanks to a post by my friend Katrina, we have implemented the “Happiness Jar”.  As I explained to the checkout guy at World Market the other day, my new apothecary jar is going to display strips of colored paper that we write on to commemorate the moments of happiness that occur each day.  He was so excited about this that his enthusiasm spilled over to the customer behind me.  Joy is contagious. 🙂

Ultimately, my resolution for 2015 is the opposite of the person who has taken up occupancy on my favorite treadmill at Gold’s.  I resolve to work out less!  But I also resolve to take that newly found time, and use it very, very well.

So, whether your resolution for 2015 is fitness related or not, here’s to health and happiness in the year ahead!  Cheers!

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Precious and Terrifying

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Perhaps it’s because I turn 39 in just a few short hours, but I have been feeling somewhat reflective today.

This morning, my kids were at my door bright and early. Ally had requested to come to my house before school so I could help do her hair for picture day.  The boys ran inside to grab more breakfast while Ally got the curling iron heated up.  During the backpack handoff, their dad and I came to an agreement on ordering a picture package that we can just split rather than ordering two as we have done in the past.  Dare I say we are making progress?

A whirlwind 20 minutes later we were in the car on our way to school and while we sat at the world’s longest stoplight, I looked over at my daughter as she told a story about horses. “Who is this kid?” I thought.  How am I possibly old enough to be her mom?  She’s so grown up.

When I pulled into the drop off circle, Ally and Ethan jumped out fairly quickly. Silas, as usual, was the pokey one.  He is also the only one who will still give me a kiss goodbye upon request.  Sadly, I don’t know how much longer he’ll do that.

I went about my morning. A trip to the post office to mail some bills (yes, I still do that even though the majority of the world does it online) followed by a visit to Dr. Brian to get me ready for my race on Sunday.  A stop at the bank, and the gas station and finally Starbucks.

By the time I got to the gym, it was closing in on noon. I ran into Maria at the door.  Even though I half expected to see her, it’s still funny to randomly run into a friend from 30 years ago.  I did a warm up on the elliptical before changing into my swimsuit and heading to the pool.  I had the pool to myself at first, which is pretty typical.  It’s funny, a couple weeks ago when I signed up at Gold’s, it occurred to me that it was the first time I have ever in my life signed up for a gym membership by my own decision and completely on my own dime.  Weird.  Even weirder still?  That the very first thing I did after signing the papers was go jump in the pool.  I’ve used the pool more than any other part of the facility so far.  So when I say I usually have the pool to myself, I mean all 5 times I’ve been in it.

But today, interestingly enough, the pool was the happening place to be. And before I tell this story, let me offer 2 things.  1.  I am in absolutely no position to make fun of anyone’s abilities, so please don’t take this as such.  And 2. I don’t claim to be an expert at much of anything, least of all swimming.

So, anyway, after about 10 minutes, I noticed a fellow in the far lane from me. My initial reaction whenever I see anyone else in the pool is…Oh boy, I hope they don’t notice how slow I am.  But as I paused to fix a leak in my goggles, I noticed that the fella in the far lane didn’t even have goggles.  He was barely putting his face in the water.  That was the first thing Coach Andy told me to do 2 years ago.  The second was “relax your shoulders”.  “Far Lane” looked just as tense as I had initially.  Which is probably why a guy at Lifetime had suggested I take some lessons a couple years ago.  Granted he was right, but no one likes unsolicited advice.  I never showed my face (or any other part of me) in that pool ever again.  I think “Far Lane” did 4 lengths.  Two full laps in the pool, I calculated as I passed him with ease, and then he resigned.  Yeah, I remember those days of only being able to swim a couple laps and then giving up out of exhaustion or frustration.  Or both. No judgment from me, Far Lane.

Again, I had the pool to myself. And then a moment later, a girl in a Tyr two-piece suit came in and set her towel and water bottle near the end of the pool, taking the place of Far Lane.  She put on her swim cap and goggles and looked the part of a real swimmer.  Again I thought, “Please don’t notice how painfully slow I am…”

I continued my swim, paying no mind to how many laps I was doing today. I just wanted to do a consistent swim for 30 minutes without using the end of the pool to take a break or push off toward the other end.  I don’t have the slightest idea how to do flip turns, but as a triathlete I don’t really need to.  Basically, I just get to the end of the blue line on the bottom of the pool and then change my stroke to get turned around going in the other direction.  We’ll call that the “triathlete’s adaptation of open water swim in a pool”.  Anyway, I was just doing my thing, watching the clock, trying not to be obvious that I was trying to see “Looks the part” through the peripheral view of my goggles.  Wait…did I just pass her?  No, I had to be imagining that.  And besides, even if I did, she’s probably still doing a warm up.  But several minutes went by and I realized that I was doing almost 2 lengths to her 1.  Ok, so it is entirely possible that my competitive juices kicked in and I began trying to see how much faster I could swim than her.  But can you blame me?  I’m never faster than anyone in the pool!  As I climbed out of the pool, I patted myself on the back for the fact that now I can go knock out a 30 or 45 minute or hour long swim, my biggest concern being boredom.  Not breathing, not exhausted shoulders, not wondering whether or not I can do it.  Just simply I don’t want to stare at that blue line while counting my strokes any longer.  In a race setting, it’s relentless forward progress toward a tangible finish line.  Training in the pool is relentless forward progress toward the wall, and then back, over and over again.  But it trains your mind to keep going, even when you really, really, REALLY don’t want to.

As I wrapped my towel around me, I noticed that “Looks the part” didn’t so much cut through the water like a pro, but sort of wound through the water more like a snake. Since I don’t know that much about swimming technique, I won’t even try to pretend that I could coach her into a more efficient stroke.  I just know that she probably could glide through the water more effectively if she didn’t have the limp noodle thing going on.  But, who am I to evaluate?

So, whoever sent me an early birthday gift of not one, but TWO slower swimmers than myself today, Thank you! But in seriousness, that whole experience again made me take note of how far I’ve come.  3 years ago I had no desire to even attempt a triathlon, even less desire to go the distance of an Ironman.  And why was that?  One thing: the great unknown.  I knew nothing about swimming.  Or racing a bike.  And especially not putting 3 sports together.  But at that same time, as I was facing so many other unknowns, I decided to give it a Go.

I always say the hardest part about running up hill is that you only see how far you have left to go, and not how far you’ve come. But today reminded me to turn around every once in a while and be proud of how far I’ve come.

Right now, as I type this, my kids are asleep upstairs after a crazy evening of homework, dinner, Tae Kwon Do, Gymnastics and buying crickets for the lizard. There is wrapping paper strewn about Ally’s bedroom floor.  There is a poster board and markers all over the dining room table, even though I’m not supposed to look in there.  And when I put Silas to bed tonight, he made me set an alarm for the morning so that he and Ally can get up to do “birthday things”.  It’s precious and terrifying at the same time.  But that pretty accurately describes my life.  Precious and terrifying.  After the “birthday things”, I will spend the day doing things I love.  I will get my first pumpkin spice latte of the season.  It’s tradition.  And I will go to lunch with my girlfriends.  And spend time with my kids.  And tomorrow evening my beau is making dinner for me.  But after I drop the kids at school, I will go for my annual reflection run.

I will look back over the past 39 years and I acknowledge how blessed I am to be standing right here right now, right where I am. I’ll looking back at the valleys I’ve climbed out of and know that God willing, I’ve got a whole lot more climbing to do.  I don’t know what hills are still ahead of me, but I know that I’m courageous and strong enough to get over them. I’ll turn around once in a while to remember where I’m coming from. And it will be worth it.  Because as challenging as it is to get there, the view from the top is always magnificent.  My life is not perfect, but it’s mine. My journey. Relentless forward progress into the unknown. Precious and terrifying.

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Confessions of a Single Mom…

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I really believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Being a single parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

I can be very resourceful.

I love being the girl who knows how to fix stuff.

Sometimes I forget to pay a bill on time.

Sometimes I remember about the bill, but it’s late anyway because I don’t have enough in my bank account to cover it.

I freak out when I can’t find a sitter to watch my kids so that I can go to work.

I’ve had to take at least one kid with me to work and have him hang out in the back room with the ipad.

I am so grateful for my awesome neighbor, Stephanie, who sometimes watches my kids and then she makes it seem like I pay her back when I watch her daughter for 10 minutes.

Sometimes when I’m stressed I yell at my kids.

I immediately feel guilty when I yell at my kids.

Sometimes I let my kids eat popcorn and ice cream for dinner because I just don’t have the energy to prepare anything.

I am always tired.

I stay up way too late, even though I’m always tired.

It’s possible to feel lonely in a house full of noisy children.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have sucked it up and stayed in an unhappy marriage, just so I wouldn’t be so lonely.

I miss my kids when they go to their dad’s.

Sometimes I get can’t wait to give the kids back to their dad, so I can have a break.

Even though I chose this life, sometimes the loneliness is almost unbearable.  I mean, I’m talking sit in the car in the garage to avoid going into an empty house lonely.  Like, wrap up in a blanket and fall asleep on the couch with the TV on to avoid going upstairs to an empty bed lonely.

Last night I did both of those.  This morning I woke up with an overwhelming, oppressive sadness.  I had a hard time kicking it.  It took a 15 mile bike ride and a 6 mile run before I finally figured out what my problem was.  As I stood in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, eating my lunch which consisted of last night’s leftovers warmed up in a take-out box (are you envisioning Diane Lane at this point?), it finally struck me.  Today would be my 13th wedding anniversary.

13 years ago today, I woke up surrounded by people I love.  I was lying next to Amy.  And Britta was in the bed next to us.  My best friends in the world.  We were at my parent’s house in Michigan.  I remember my mom coming in to the room for something, maybe just to see if I was awake yet on my wedding day.  I’m pretty sure my dad was in the kitchen making French toast.  My sister was likely tending to my niece, MacKenzie, and my brother was there somewhere.  I woke up to a house full of people I love.

Today, I woke up to an empty house.  No one.  Other than the sound of my ceiling fan, complete silence. It took almost every ounce of energy that I had to drag myself out of bed.  The loneliness was almost physically painful.

I had a fantastic weekend while the kids were away.  I went to Art Hill at Forest Park to drink wine and watch Casablanca with girlfriends on Friday night.  Saturday night after working all day and church, I was a 5th wheel when I met friends in the loop for a round of Bags at Market House Pub, followed by bowling at Pin-Up Bowl.  And after work Sunday, I had dinner with Nicole and Farrell.  So, how is it possible to have such a full schedule and still feel lonely?  I don’t know.  It just is.

For someone who actually craves alone time, it doesn’t really seem like it makes any sense.  But it is what it is.  Tonight after work I get to pick up the kids and drive to Michigan for a few days.  There is nothing better to heal the heart than a few days in New Buffalo.  We’re going to visit my mom, and play at the pool, and go to the beach, and get Shakes at Nancy’s.  And for a few days, my heart will be full to overflowing because of my kiddos.  And on Sunday, they’ll go back to their dad’s.  For a brief moment, I will breathe a sigh of relief.  And I’ll go for a run and enjoy being alone.  And then by Sunday night, I’ll probably feel lonely again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and I know they would do anything for me, just like I would for them.  But sometimes there are things you just have to do on your own.

As I was finishing up my run today, Britney Spears came on my ipod.  Yeah, that’s right, I said Britney Spears.  Ya wanna make something of it?! Don’t judge me.  Anyway, I listened to the words “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more, I’m stronger than yesterday”.   So, yeah, I’m leaving the loneliness behind me one mile at a time. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the loneliness that comes along with my kids going back to their dad’s, but I do know that I’m stronger today than I was yesterday.

On the beach in MI with my babies

On the beach in MI with my babies

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Find Your Strong

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Saucony did an advertising campaign recently called Find Your Strong.  If I could have had a theme to the past week, I think that pretty much covers it.

Last week I was feeling pretty discouraged about my training for Racine and just my abilities in general.  After I blogged my pity party the other night, I decided it was time to put on my big girl panties and get to work.  So on Thursday afternoon when I left FLEET FEET, I went off to Lake St. Louis to meet up with Farrell for a little open water swim.  I got to see her new house, which is awesome.  But we spent a little too much time chatting and didn’t end up with a ton of time to swim.   We walked over to the beach and jumped in for a quick 1000 meters (I supposed quick is a relative term).  It wasn’t much, but considering that was the first time I’ve been in that lake since my first and only triathlon last August, it was somewhat monumental.  I swam 500m out and then back again in the open water, freestyle the whole way, practiced sighting and felt great.  I acknowledged how far I’ve come in less than a year and that alone was enough to restore my confidence in my upcoming attempt at 70.3.  After that swim, I got in a short 40 minute bike ride, before getting over to the Marquette High School track to be the guest leader for Thursday night Speedwork.  Cole, who usually leads, had been given concert tickets for his birthday from his girlfriend and had asked me several weeks ago to fill in.  I didn’t get to run too much of the workout with the group, but I got in a couple of slow, rather painful (my hip is still sketchy) laps around the track.  So, all in all, it was a successful day since it involved swim, bike and run.  Sort of.

Thursday morning was tough though.  As I dropped my kiddos off at their camp, I said goodbye to them until I see them again on Tuesday.  5 days straight without my babies.  Ally and I got each of the boys settled in their rooms and then we began the trek up the stairs.  She started walking slower, I could tell it was coming.  As we got in sight of her group, she threw her arms around me and started sobbing.  “I don’t want to be away from you for 5 days, Mom.  It’s too long.  I miss you so much!” she cried.  I hugged her and pulled her to the bench along the wall of the hallway.  I held her for a few minutes and reassured her that she’d have a great time at the water park with her cousins, the time would fly and we’d be back together before she knew it.  I asked if there was anything I could do to help make it easier and we agreed on a 7pm phone call Friday night.  Ultimately, I wrestled free of my baby girl’s grip and headed back down the stairs.  As soon as my back was to her, my own tears began to fall.  You see, sometimes we put on a brave face and we stay strong only because we have to, in order to help someone else feel strong.

When the kids are with their dad, I usually fill the time pretty well.  Thursday was packed with activities.  Friday I worked most of the day, then went down to Forest Park, did a couple loops on my bike, and just as I was transitioning to run, Diana showed up.  We did one loop around the park before heading back to the rooftop of her apartment building for some sunset wine and sushi.  During which, I made a call to my Ally-girl, as promised.

Saturday morning, I was up at the crack of dawn to head out to Newtown to meet up with Kris for a swim/bike.  I got in two whole laps for a whopping total of a MILE of open water swimming, no stopping, all freestyle!  Holy Schnikes I’m making progress!  We followed that up with about 15 miles on the bike before Kris and I both had to hit the road.  I grabbed coffee and food on my way to work, where I jumped in the shower. I am so grateful for this particular amenity of my job, though probably not as grateful as my co-workers, considering that as I stood in Starbucks wondering why it smelled like a fishy lake, I ultimately realized it was my own stench.  Gross.  Anyway, I fit some folks for running shoes on Saturday afternoon and then did a quick change into a little black dress to head out to dinner with a group of friends, during which I had to respond to several  “I miss you” texts from Ally.

On Saturday evening I came to the realization that I have officially become “That Triathlete Girl” who has her bike locked to the bike rack and a bike pump, helmet, cycling shoes, wetsuit, towel, swim cap, goggles, running gear and evening out clothes all in the back of my car at any given time.  Always prepared to squeeze in one form of recreation or another whenever I can.  But I digress…

This morning I was planning to cycle.  Well, it didn’t happen, for a myriad of reasons.  I had some other stuff to tend to before going off to work, which involved sending an email I didn’t really want to send but I knew it needed to happen.  After work, I was hoping to get in a long run in the rain which probably would have been good for my head and my heart, which are very obviously not on the same page these days.  The heart wants what it wants, even though the head sometimes knows better.  Or maybe the head just thinks it knows better.  I’m still not really sure.  At any rate, the lightening  extravaganza that was on display about the time I rolled up to Creve Coeur Lake, quickly put an end to the idea of my rain run.  So, I went with Plan B instead, I picked up Thai food and went to hang out with Farrell.  I needed some Linds time.

So, what’s the moral here?  Well, sometimes we have to do things we don’t particularly want to do in an effort to be strong for ourselves or someone else.  Sometimes we have to find our strong.  Sometimes it doesn’t look the way we thought it would.  Sometimes we find confidence in that.  Sometimes it means we have to let go of something.  And sometimes, it just plain breaks our hearts.  But when it comes down to it, as this weekend comes to a close, I’m proud of me for finding my strong when I needed to.  Sometimes being strong means facing a fear, sometimes it means pushing ourselves through it and sometimes it means making ourselves vulnerable.  I believe it was Nelson Mandela who said something to the effect of, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave (person) is not (one) who does not feel afraid, but (one) who conquers that fear.”  I think he was saying, Be Brave…Go find your strong.

Yesterday morning as I drove out to Newtown, the sun was shining, but I had my wipers going because it was also raining at the same time.  I thought, This is so odd.  And then in my rear-view mirror, I saw a rainbow.  But isn’t that just so representative of life…it can be sunny and raining all at the same time.  And sometimes you have to look behind you, in order to see the rainbow.

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear...

Objects in mirror are closer than they appear…

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